The Expansion is an espionage novel set against the searing heat of Panama, and today I’m happy to be hosting the book’s blog tour.
Disclosure: I received a copy of The Expansion for review. The opinions below are my own and unbiased.
The Expansion opens with one of the most fast-paced, explosive prologues that I’ve read in a long time. It sets the scene for a novel that is packed full of international espionage, murder, intrigue and the beautiful setting of Panama.
The novel follows British engineer Max Burns as he works on a complex project to expand the Panama Canal. It gives Max the opportunity to work with an old school friend, Godfredo Roco, and his mercurial father Paco. But projects like this are rarely straightforward, and there are forces at work behind the scenes to complicate matters.
Working in Panama also introduces Max to Karis Deen, a research scientist working in the area. Max feels he can trust her, even if he can’t trust anyone else, but Karis has a secret of her own…
Compared to its explosive opening, the first part of The Expansion feels quite slow burning. That makes sense when you consider that this is the first in a series of four books. Christoph Martin is introducing the reader to characters who they will be following through different countries and different challenges. And he gives his characters real depth.
Max Burns comes across as more than just the protagonist of the book. The novel explores the layers of his character, earned through a life that is both privileged and tough. Likewise Paco Rico isn’t a stereotypical villain, he is a ruthless man with subtle layers to his cruelty.
But for me, the most intriguing characters in the book are the women, and that’s often unusual in this kind of novel. Karis Deen and Erika Fisher are strong, driven women with their own agendas. They won’t easily be distracted from their goals. I really enjoyed these characters, they seemed to be portrayed much more believably than women often are in espionage novels.
In my interview with Christoph Martin, he gives credit to his writing partner Libby O’Loghlin for this. Christoph says that working with Libby helped him to “to get the reader ‘in the heads’ of the characters in quite a realistic way”. You can read the rest of my interview with Christoph here.
If the first section of The Expansion is slow burning, the rest of the novel is anything but gentle. The pace speeds right up, with shocks and surprises around every corner. The tension then cranks right up for an dramatic conclusion that kept me reading late into the night.
Just when you think that you have time to catch your breath, The Expansion ends on a real cliff hanger. It leads the reader into Book 2, and I can’t wait to read that!
In politics and big business, truth is a matter of opinion.
Straddling the storyworlds of Panama, Washington and London, The Expansion follows British-born geomatic engineer Max Burns, whose revolutionary water-saving system wins him the esteemed position of head engineer for one of the 21st century’s most politically contested megaprojects: the expansion of the Panama Canal.
For Max it is a dream come true: not only is he able to work closely with construction giant and old high-school friend Godfredo Roco in one of the most beautiful tropical environments, but it’s the kind of job Max has been working toward his entire career.
Yet in the arena of global trade and diplomacy, stakes are high, and when a senior official of the Panama Canal Administration is found dead, Max finds himself in the frame for sabotage and murder, and at the center of a web of political intrigue and betrayal that reaches far beyond the idyllic shores of Central America. The only person Max can trust is his new-found love, Karis Deen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Except Karis herself holds a secret that could not only destroy Max, but could change the entire balance of world power.
A slow burning start leads into an explosive novel full of intrigue: 8/10